Film Marie O'Sullivan's Film Reviews

Film Review: The Offering [L’Ofrena] (2021)

the offering

A psychological drama from Catalan director Ventura Durall has plenty of intrigue and explores long-lasting guilt and a quest for forgiveness.

Young love can be beautiful. And cruel. Most of us get a bit miserable for a while when it’s over, but we move on, grow more mature, and form other relationships. 

The Offering however gives us characters for whom this first love was the be-all and end-all, a love whose ending changed lives and had long-term consequences. 

When we first meet twenty-something Rita (Verónica Echegui), she’s earning a living via an online sex-cam when she is interrupted by a knock on her door. Jan (Alex Brendemühl) has brought an important message from her father – Jan’s business is helping people to apologise for past transgressions and seek forgiveness from those they have wronged before they die. Some years later, Rita enters a therapist’s office and begins a strange conversation with Violeta (Anna Alarcón) about Jan. It’s the beginning of a whole triangle of emotional turmoil and destruction.

The whole tone of The Offering is one of distinct unease; despite some ‘clues’ early on, it’s never 100% clear what everyone’s motivation is until well into the story. There’s a constant feeling that each of the characters is hiding something and it’s all about to explode – and the soundtrack also very subtly contributes a lot to the uneasiness. 

Each of the three in the triangle are still carrying the scars of their youthful relationships for different reasons. And while Jan believes that atonement is all about forgiveness, letting the other person know how sorry you are for your actions, Rita knows from experience that a confession is often made to assuage feelings of guilt on the part of the perpetrator, and it’s not actually about the victim.

Performance-wise, Brendemühl is perhaps a little too reserved although it could be argued that Jan’s character calls for him to be restrained to an extent and give very little away. But Echegui’s energy would not be out of place in a Pedro Almodóvar film, with her neurotic mood swings and sharp dialogue.

The narrative does make a couple of leaps here and there which maybe a bit of a challenge, but those aside, The Offering presents an intriguing psychological drama and a study of guilt and abandonment, and contains one of the most real and appropriate scenes of sexual intimacy that I’ve seen in a film for a long time. And for those interested in linguistic aspects – although the film is Spanish, the dialogue is almost entirely in Catalan.

The Offering is released in cinemas, Virtual Cinemas and on VOD in the UK on 30th July 2021

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